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Iraq 45, Us 11, Syria 8, U.s. 8, Baghdad 5, United States 4, Iran 4, Washington 2, Kerrey 1, Nouri 1, Casey 1, Tom Cole 1, Michael Horowitz 1, Tom 1, Maliki 1, Rubio 1, Jim Jeffries 1, Obama 1, Shaheen 1, You Look 1,
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  CSPAN    Capitol Hill Hearings    News/Business.  

    September 20, 2012
    6:00 - 7:00am EDT  

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expand economic growth and strengthen the justice sector by corruption protect human rights. if confirmed, i assure you that my number one priority will continue to be the safety of embassy personnel and united states citizens living in a rock. nothing is more important to the president, secretary of state or to me personally. i will also work to ensure that we have the right personnel and resources to successfully carry out our mission. i am continuing the process, as part of the effort we have already made significant cuts and our staffing and contractor support. that will further reduce our footprint without compromising our security. it is a tremendous honor to have been nominated by president obama to serve as the u.s. ambassador to iraq. if confirmed, i will deepen our collaboration with iraq and its
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people and secure our vital interests. i look forward to collaborate with you and your staff and encourage you to visit iraq to see the important work we're doing there. thank you for the opportunity to testify today. i welcome your questions. >> thanks very much. can you share with me in answer to the question i raised about the iranians using iraqi airspace in order to support assad? what have we been doing -- what have you been doing, if anything, to limit that use? >> i have personally engaged in this repeatedly at the highest levels of the iraqi government. my colleagues in baghdad have engaged in this and every single visitor representing u.s. government from the center -- three cell -- 3 visitors have raised it with the iraqis to make it clear we find this unacceptable and we find it not
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helpful and detrimental to the region and to iraq and of course to the syrian people. this is something that needs to stop and we are pressing and will continue to press until the bus stop. >> it may stop when it is too late. if so many people have entreated the government to stop and that doesn't seem to have an impact, that sort of alarms me a little bit. it sends a signal that maybe we should make some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response. it seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build a democracy and support them and put american lives on the line and put money in the country and they're working against our interests so overtly. >> i share your concerns or 100%. with your position, -- with your
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permission, i will make it clear to the iraqis that you find it alarming and may put our assistance and cooperation at stake. >> i think it would be hard -- around here, there's a lot of anxiety about factions that want to have it both ways. i wish you would really that, obviously and i think the members of the committee would want you to do so. with respect to the safety issues of personnel and their citizens there, are you taking extra steps now? are there additional debt initiatives in place to resolve what has happened in the last week or so? >> in light of recent events, we have taken a very cautious and careful look at our security on a regular basis. we have our own security at the embassy. we think it is sizeable. it is robust and we are very
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confident that it is what we need at this time. we are fully engaged with iraqi officials both political and security officials at the most senior levels to ensure that they give us the cooperation we feel we need and so far, they have done that. they have pledged to protect us and we are doing everything to ensure that the key to that pledge that we meet our part of it by ensuring that safety can be on our terms. we enjoy geographic advantages. the embassy is located inside the green zone. there are a number of checkpoints that are closely guarded. it is not a place where demonstrations usually take place. >> what is the direction of the iraqi people of the events of the last week? >> compare to other places in the region, it is quite muted. there have been demonstrations
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in the country but they unload level. there has been nothing specifically threatening. there have been statements highly critical of the film that is at issue. there are statements by some political leaders that they should examine the relationship of the united states because of this film but on a whole, we get good cooperation and continued to engage iraqi officials are meeting with us on a regular basis. >> increasingly, we are hearing more anecdotal and other reports about the increase of authoritarianism of the al- maliki government and the system itself perhaps becoming less democratic. can you share your perceptions of that with us and how you see this trend line moving? >> iraq is a democracy. it faces a lot issues that are challenging to that democracy.
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it is fragile in many ways and we're working constantly with all sides with the prime minister, with his party, is bloc and other parties across the political spectrum to insure that democratic institutions and the democratic process is strengthened. we're pushinghem all to engage to preserve their interest in the legislative process in an independent reform process that they have agreed to. we are using the system to achieve what you need to achieve rapid that look outside the system and make it fall apart that a i remember sitting downstairs -- >> i remember sitting downstairs in this building on the ground floor when secretary condoleezza rice testified and the remember her saying to us vividly that we are just a few weeks away from signing an agreement on the division of the oil and having an oil agreement globally for
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iraq. i guess it is five or six years later now and still no agreement. there is still the problem with the kurds and the suny minority. there is skepticism about whether or not the current government actually intends to have a diverse, pluralistic representative government or we're moving toward some other form of sectarian division here. i think many people are worried about it. can you share your perspective about that? >> there still is no hydrocarbon law. next to the constitution, this is one of the most important laws that go into place in the country. we are pushing it very aggressively. the state department looks after energy issues and a representative from the department of energy came to iraq and met with officials
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there and dietary secretary bill burns followed up last week. we are pointing up this is a way to unite the country which is what they need to do at this time. i am pleased to say there has been some subsequent engagement by the iraqis and oil issues and some discussion of restarting negotiations on the hydrocarbon law. we will push them in that direction. it is a positive sign most recently representatives from the kurdish regional government were in baghdad a few days ago a meeting with the minister oil. progress andsome they are moving forward on that. these are issues which should smooth relations and allow for a hydrocarbon law to go ahead in the future. >> senator lugar -- >> let me just follow on after
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that questioning -- what you have described is based sovereign country without the hydrocarbon law, oil being the basic revenue for the government never came into being and therefore it is debated by the on occasion with companies outside of iraq. without that law, some dispersion of the wealth of the country is quite apart from the questions of how kurds fits into this situation. the question that the iraqis must have -- getting back to
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testimony that we here before this committee -- some are advocating that there were three different countries and the odds of recognizing the realities of iraq as opposed to having this fiction that there was one country and somehow or other, the oil and constitutional framework representing the three major groups and others would come into being. how does the country operate given these divisions? granted that nouri al-maliki has authority but from time to time, there are reports against the iraqis in iraq. the kurd situation is hard to describe. how did they move toward this happening at all?
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is there an impetus toward unity and toward cohesion given time that this will work out or the trend may be the other way given events in the middle east, given the ties with iran whatever they may be? is this a solid country? >> yes, i think it is. they have a solid basis for the country to go forward and succeed. there are forces that would pull iraq apart, we continue to see that iraqis continue to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiation. when they have disputes which they have frequently, to be perfectly honest, they find ways to resolve them peacefully. it is part of the democratic process and march of this to continue to encourage that and support them as they do that and
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point out ways where they can do it more effectively. the hydrocarbon law is one way to do that, to strengthen the legislative process is another way, focusing on key laws they need to pass as part of the legislative process. putting new commissioners in place are things of that will help unified the country. over country right now, i think it is headed in the right direction but with plenty of ups and downs. we need to keep the trend line going and try to minimize the dems. downs. >> is your enthusiasm for a unified iraq? >> we are looking at that very closely. most iraqis will save united states continues to have a role to play in iraq. i think most iraqis are committed to the same thing we are committed to which is a unified federal and democratic
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iraq. >> you mentioned the relative security -- in the past, there has been considerable discussion not only among diplomats and the american public about the size of the embassy in iraq. there was a discussion when this was first built, i rather monumental structure. i remember at one conference, i suggested that the structure was so big it might serve as a unifying purpose, sort of a united forum where they would all come together, like the hague and sample -- and some people found some interest in this. what is the future of all the real estate come all the responsibilities? they are huge and this will be
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an ongoing debate, i'm sure, in the congress as we tackle the budget problems in this country? >> we recognize that this is an issue. we start with an embassy that was staff to address all possible contingencies and follow up on the wonderful work the u.s. military had done in the rack. since that time and starting with ambassador geoffrey and that we will pursue, we call it a glidepath exercise where we are looking at our objectives and how we are resources to staff to meet those objectives. we found we can prioritize and focus our mission and will continue to do that and what we need to accomplish. as we do that, we can reduce personnel. since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2000. we're somewhere between 13 and 14,000 personnel in iraq. we have given back in the last
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couple of days facilities we had in kirkuq and facilities we had in baghdad. we have another facility in the next few days which we will give back also in baghdad. we are reducing not just the number of personnel but reducing the number of pieces of property we occupied and used. we are very mindful of the cost to takes to support the mission in a wreck and i personally am dedicated to reducing those costs by focusing our mission on what we need to achieve and reshaping it. >> we congratulate you on your service. we are hopeful that we can get action on this nomination quickly. you are there and conserve our country well in the months ahead. thank you very much. >> thank you, senator. >> thanks for calling this hearing.
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thank you, mr. ambassador, for your willingness to serve and what you are doing their. i listened to the comments of senator kerrey and over the last decade, there has been quite a turn of events in iraq and for iran or last decade. 10 years ago, our major enemy was right next door in iraq. today, they are flying airplanes over iraq into syria to help one of their allies. you mention that everyone at every level has talked to al- maliki about that and you will continue. what is his response when you say you would like him to cooperate with us in our interests? what does he exactly say in response to our efforts? >> the response is typically to
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express concern about the events in syria. they are very clear that both the prime minister and other iraqi officials have no interest in saying the current government continue, that they are no friends of that regime, that regime has been hostile to them in the past and allow terrorists to come into iraq and been harmful to democracy and institutions and the people in iraq. they are interested in seeing that there is a clear outcome in syria that protects their interests. there have been a little trouble seeing that. >> what about the aerospace issue? why are they continuing to cooperate with iran and that effort? what can they tell you specifically regarding that? what is their response? >> they say engage in all parties and they will not allow
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their air space and ground to transport troops and they have instructed that will not allow flights. >> they are convinced about the flights are not carrying armaments? >> they are taking the manifest at face value. we are urging them to either disapprove the flights or for un resolutions asking them to land. >> they are taking the manifest at face value? >> we are pressing them to have the aircraft be disapproved or land to be inspected which is their right to do. >> this speaks to our continuing role there -- i thank you for your service of their -- one senator brass so and i first got here which was 5.5 years ago, we were talking about this hydrocarbon discussion at that time.
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i remember a hydrocarbon law was trying to work and there still is nothing that has happened. i think it begs the question that we have a situation where a natural interest in serious different than what iraq is allowing to happen. our involvement there perhaps has caused a situation and a question as to what are continuing role in iraq is. >> iraq recently passed the $3 billion -- $3 million per day oil threshold. 2.5 million barrels of that are exported and the rest is used domestically. this is something that is in our interest. >> it is in everybody's
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interest, right? >> that's correct. it is particularly in our interest because there are sanctions on iraq. as their production has decreased, the increase in -- there are sanctions on iran. as their production has decreased, there is an increase in iraq. there is pressure from others not to do this but they are doing it anyway. it is something we work closely with them. i take your point but i want to flag that -- >> i think it is a serious question. we have had really good embassadors and i'm sure you will be equally good but we had the best of the best in iraq. as you look at the things we have encouraged them to do, it is really difficult. i cannot really remember anything of significance that our involvement there through diplomatic relations have allowed them to do that is in
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our national interest. if you can point -- selling to million barrels per oil is in their interests. it would be cutting off their nose to spite their face not to do that. i would not say that is in our interest. what is it that that we have shaped diplomatically there since we have been there that has been in our national interest? >> it is certainly in our natural interest, i believe, that we have a unified iraq that plays a constructive role in the region. they recently hosted the arab league summit that brought in all the arab leaders and 22 delegations were present for that. there is a sign that it is unifying into a peaceful iraq. it continues to battle al qaeda very strongly. this is something that is also in our interest. we will continue to work with them on things like this.
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this -- these are our most important and we are getting a degree of success. >> aren't there some border leakages between iraq and syria that are allowing more al qaeda to flow into syria? isn't that an issue? >> the iraqis have dispatched a number of troops to the border to protect the border and stop the flow either way into or out of. readis morning's news, i they had killed three terrorists attempting to cross over aqi into iraq from syria. they are trying to protect the borders and stop the flow weapons on the ground either way. >> my time is up and i think you have heard from the three questioners so far of different parties that we thank you for
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your service and i think you will be approved very quickly and we thank you for coming in for this hearing. we know the work there is very difficult. that asaling with folks you would expect are looking after their own interests first. i think you will continue to be pressured by folks here and in other places to see results there with our diplomatic actions. i know they are asking for increased aid and i think aid will be coming. under increased pressure. i think people will want to see results. i thank you for your willingness to take on this role. i thank you for ask -- entering in an honest way, our questions but i think there will be many more as you take this on. i hope the government of iraq understands that we would like to understand some movement in a
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positive direction on issues that have been sitting around for a long, long time. thank you very much. >> i have to go to another meeting and i apologize. senator casey will chair and he will recognize the next questioner and the way. i want to wish you well. i want to thank you for you taking on this tough task. thank her family at the same time for their contribution to this effort. we really appreciate it. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> we are grateful for your willingness to serve yet again and we appreciate that. i have a couple of questions to start with. that involve the issue of the overflights over iraq. as a predicate to that, i want to ask you about your sense of what we can do to be as vigilant
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as we can. a number of weeks ago, the iranian influence in the region, especially the support for terrorism in the region was addressed at a hearing and one of our witnesses at that hearing was ambassador jim jeffries. as a predicate for my question, i wanted to give you a quote from something the ambassador said. i asked about the iranian inflows in iraq and he said the following," the strategy in iraq including strategic dominance of the country has been successful despite a massive cut in resources. that is a policy we should continue bearing always in mind that this success is fragile, should not be placed at risk for water policy is. if iranian pressure increases, we have tools to counter."
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that is what ambassador jeffrey said not too long ago. it is clear that iran has brought to bear great pressure on iraq as it relates to that air space. what tools do we have to deal with that problem? i know you spoke about this in response to questions this morning but to put an even finer point on it, if you can do that -- >> i will answer what i can this setting. classifiedere can be meeting if necessary. our major tool is to work with the iraqis. the starting point that they have their own self-interest and all groups in iraq recognize they have their own interests and those are not necessarily i ran a interest and there may be some overlap. there are shared interests.
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on the whole, iraqis take the approach that they are a sovereign nation and independent of iran. if their interests happened to coincide, they are fine but if they don't, we see they follow their own interests and they don't doubt to pressure. one example is the oil example i gave. we need to strengthen this democracy. we need to make sure iraq is not a house divided which is easily influenced and pressured by a house that is united and strong by getting all parties to play in the political process constructively. we need to work with them to show them that we will support them in pursuing their own interest and we will counterbalance the influence coming from outside to the extent weekend. we will of a strong relationship with them. >> i appreciate that because -- i have great confidence you'll
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be confirmed -- as you assume your new post, i hope you make it very clear to the iraqi leadership that we have great concerns about the. people in both parties here and in the senate have concerns first and foremost about the iranian nuclear program, preventing them from getting nuclear weapon capability. that is my position and i think that is a widely held point of view. even if there was no nuclear threat, the threat they pose to the region and beyond is of paramount importance. i hope you continue to reiterate that this. it should position. i was struck when i was there
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in july of 2010, senate shaheen and i and two others were there. our visit overlapped with a visit from the vice-president. we had a moment in about two hours where we could sit with him and he had just come from a series of meetings with the various iraqi officials, trying to work out the politics and the typical management of that and doing everything he could to bring the sides together. it is one thing to have ideological differences and another thing when it has its origin and ethnicity and other divisions. it is particularly difficult to bring the sides together. i was also struck by how capable the vice-president was in dealing with this.
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he spent a lot of time with all these players. there is still a real concern now that those politics have not worked as well as we had hoped. in particular, there is a concern or maybe an allegation that pride ma ministeriliki has become more authoritarian. i want to get your sense of that and the overall politics. that will be the underpinning of progress. cannot make progress unless the man as those political differences. i want to get your sense of that and what you can do to further those areas of cooperation. >> there currently are divisions within iraq that have different interests. what is encouraging is that the parties when they have disputes are differences, at the end of the day, they come together to
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talk and negotiate. they continue to function as a democracy and continue to work in the legislature and the council of ministers. there are unofficial processes to work out their differences and find ways for reported oftentimes, it is a slow process. it does not move but the pace we would like to see or with the efficiency we would like to see. i see our role largely to encourage this and be helpful in pointing out ways forward, the way things might be done, the way they might be able to compromise or reach consensus on issues. and then to be as supportive as possible to help them avoid any backsliding on agreements and find ways to help consolidate them and we will continue to do that as best we can. the encouraging thing is that iraq does not fall apart and has
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held together and they're certainly are forces at play that led to pull apart internally and externally. the iraqis themselves have found ways to continue to work with each other and continue to resolve their disputes. i don't want to minimize the importance of. this is of great concern to particular groups in iraq. at the end of the day, they find a way to step back from the press as and talk and find a way forward. we will continue to work with them on that and push them in those directions in the most positive, constructive, and encouraging ways. >> my time is up and i think senator rubio is a >> next. congratulations and thank you for your service. i to anticipate there will be little if any objection to your nomination. i know you want to get to work quickly. let me touch on three subjects.
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there has been discussion about the influence of iran and iraq. it is a concern in light of the ex-vice president trial in turkey and others and growing evidence or allegations that the prime minister and others have inability to the judiciary -- have manipulated the judiciary. do we have confidence that has changed? >> we have concerns across the board that any country, iran or others, not play an overbearing or overly influential role in iraq. we work closely with the judiciary in a lack -- iraq and the legal community. we do everything we can to ensure there is support for rule of law programs. so far, we see a largely
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functioning judiciary. i cannot give it a 100% endorsement, no country has that, it is something that continues to function and will continue to help that function better. >> my second concern is about the well-being of the leaders of the democratic nation. have we express' to are concerned about the way one leader has been treated. i have read a series of accounts of how different types of protections have been withdrawn. apparently, he has had to leave baghdad. >> i missed the name -- >> he is the leader of the day
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iraq democratic party. >> we have concerns about human rights across the board. we will raise those concerns at every opportunity as well as a rule of law concerns to make sure everyone is treated fairly. on this individual, i may have to go back for an answer and get back to you. >> in addition to being the leader of the democratic nation party in iraq, he has been a staunch ally of the united states and courageous in many instances, a proponent on behalf of a moral society, everything we hoped the region will become, he has stood for. i encourage you to look into his case which is well documented. he has now had to leave to the northern region for protection because of the way the current government has treated him. it is terrible not to back up our friends who are moderate in the region. it is concerning that there is
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not more awareness about his plight. what is your view of our relationship with the regional government in the north, the kurdish regional government. apparently is safer than the rest of iraq. how is our relationship with them and how do you envision our relationship with the moving forward? >> i will look into the case personally and we will get back to you and your staff. regarding the north, we are very supportive of the autonomous region of the north and you are right that it has progressed in many ways. that is an example job -- not just for the country but the region and what can be. we will continue to support them and work with them as part of a unified federal iraq. we have the best of relationships with them. we will continue to have those
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relations. >> the closer we get to them, the more we risk alienating the prime minister. do you share that view? >> we have excellent relations also with the prime minister. we will continue to keep those and so long as people understand this is part of a unified federal iraq, our work with the north should not be objectionable and so far has not been. >> i have heard some commentators say you have to be careful how we do with them and not appear too close to them because it may alienate -- you say that is not necessarily something that would stand in your way to reach out to them. you feel you can have a good relationship with both? >> that is what i am saying. >> thank you.
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>> i want to make sure you are ok for questioning. >> i am ready to go. here and wefor being very much appreciate your service especially in light of all the things we have seen over the last couple of. weeks we're pleased that you're willing to serve. according to the special inspector general for the iraq in its report of this year, the inspector said "anti-government forces continue to prominent -- continued to target prominent iraqis for assassination. officials were killed this year and not only our government
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officials being targeted by the judges, military officers have been targeted by assassins." out of these tensions impacted governments in iraq and impacted them to participate in the system and how does this impact long-term political health of iraq? >> violence is at the top of our concerns and we're doing everything we are -- we can to help the iraqis confront violence and holding those responsible accountable. we have not seen that keeps the iraqis from continuing to work in the system. iraqis are going out on the street and participating in normal life on the street. there may be some examples of iraqis in not serving, most iraqis are happy to serve. they vigorously carry out their jobs. that is something we will encourage and something we work with the rockies on and will
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continue to do that. -- and something we continue to work with the iraqis on and will continue to do that. >> some of this has been attributed to al qaeda in iraq. i was wondering about your assessment of that. how much or they involve? are there insurgents there? how big of an impact are they having? >> you are absolutely right -- al-qaeda is a huge concern. they continue to perpetrate violence in iraq. the iraqis are focused on it. fortunately, we find the violence has not led to the things al qaeda is hoping to achieve. it is not leading to sectarian conflict. it is not undermining the government in a way that people of lost confidence in it. it is something that is a major concern that we need to help
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iraq deal with. they have best for our help and we will help them as much as possible. yes, it is a major concern and needs to be dealt with the. >> do you believe the iraqi military services are focused on that and putting their maximum effort there? >> they are focused. they have good people. we talk to them regularly about this. they assure us that they are strong in their commitment. they have asked us for assistance in providing information we have and we are doing that. and assistance in providing equipment and we're also doing that as well. >> ambassador, i know it is not as the same level as afghanistan but corruption is still a very big issue.
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in iraq. what do you believe they have done to effectively deal with this? are there efforts you would take would you get there to move this effort along? how are we dealing with this corruption issue? >> corruption is a large issue. the last report had iraq ranked eighth in the world in corruption which is not something you want to be. iraqis are aware of this. the government is focused on it. we continue to work with them and we have people in the embassy that engage regularly on this issue. what they are aware of and we point out is that this hurts the things they want or diminishes the opportunity. people find it not just a difficult environment to operate in because of corruption.
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it makes it very difficult. it discourage businesses from coming forward. we will continue to work with them to deal with the problem and improve it. >> one of the major criticisms that has been leveled against our participation was the signing of the agreement between iraq and the united states. do you have any thoughts on that in terms of where we are today that enables us to function effectively with them? has that set back our efforts? >> u.s. military did fantastic work in iraq. most iraqis to recognize that and appreciate it. we put in place a strategic framework agreement which we are working on -- working through
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with the iraqis to engage on a whole range of issues, everything from justice to diplomacy to economic issues, education issues. this is the framework we are pursuing to ensure that we are fully engaged with them, issues that are a concern to us and the concern to them were we can't make traction. i think we can continue to see this function well and continued to make progress that we want to achieve and we want to see iraq to achieve. >> thank you very much and once again thank you for your service. >> i also thank you for your service and your willingness to continue to serve in iraq. we've got a lot of blood and treasure invested there. you have entered a lot of questions i have had. a number of folks have said that
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iraq is unraveling and it is coming apart, the fact that we did not leave a stabilizing force in iraq makes it virtually impossible for us to impact policy. so of the things you said have suggested otherwise. i have to admit that i'm a little cynical because over last 10 years, i have gotten a number of reports that were rosy only to find out it was not the case at all. you seem to be very credible and knowledgeable so i am encouraged by what you said. let me ask a few questions as a follow-up but you have answered some of these to some degree. clearly, there's a growing anti- american sentiment throughout the middle east. how pervasive is that in iraq? do you think the manipulative rage we have seen in other countries, can i take hold in iraq? >> we have seen reactions
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recently in iraq with demonstrations but they have not been of the size and severity we have seen in other countries. hasiraqi government handled matters in a very peaceful way. there is increasing goodwill toward the united states in iraq and increasing recognition about the positive role that the united said the military has played there. is there jobs to capitalize on that and make the most of it and build a partnership and their relationship with iraq. i don't want to minimize the difficulties that iraqi's face and that we also face. i want to stress that there are signs that are and. purging encouraging.
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we will continue to work to increase the number of encouraging signs and increase the successes. in large part of that is building the partnership that we have with iraq making it stronger. this is the platform we have left from the u.s. military that you mentioned a house divided. >> we have seen a number of reports thatsunni arabs and kurds are skeptical. how serious is that? you mentioned but it seems to be working out in a democratic way rather than a violent way. is that the good news? is there a division but is being worked out? but yes, you're absolutely correct. that is the good news.
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there are disagreements and interests of barrie permission to issue but what we see is that the iraqis continue to talk. more importantly, they continued to channel their concerns through the democratic process and handle things as part of the democratic process. recently, a there was a confidence vote. it was allowed in the iraqi constitution and it was a democratic procedure which people were looking at and considering. it was not something that was outside the democratic framework. >> one other question -- religious freedom and you mentioned human rights. we get a lot of reports particularly from christian missionaries about religious freedom. they say it is not being
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protected by the iraqi government. is this a priority of theirs or something they try to sweep under the rug? is there hope that different faiths can operate within iraq? >> i think there is hope. that said, is one of the concerns of the embassy and the state department and others are very focused on in iraq. since 2008, we received three directives from congress to spend $10 million each. we have spent $72 million pursuing religious freedom of looking for ways to protect minority religious groups in iraq. we will continue to do that. we engage with them regularly and will continue and while the iraqis have shown that not only do they have laws that protect religious freedom, they have taken steps in the past in response to attacks to protect
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christian churches and with -- and when there are holidays for minority religious groups, they will take steps to protect the people. we need to encourage these things and see it expense of all people can practice their religion freely. >> i look forward to meeting with you a little bit later. >> i have a couple more questions. i may be the last questioner. there is a line of questioning on special immigrant visas which we know is a program which allows iraqis who have helped american forces, help our efforts in iraq, to have their visas expedited. these are people of uncommon courage and were of great
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assistance to us. they obviously live under threat of death or something very serious in terms of a threat to their safety. i realize these have been expedited and there is good news about the numbers. i am told that in fiscal year 2012, there was in of expediting that the u.s. admitted more in 2012 and 2011. that is encouraging but there is a backlog. can you address where we are with that? how many are in the pipeline and how could you move that ford in the assumption of your new duties? >> we are working with washington. at the top of my head, i don't have the exact numbers in the pipeline. you're absolutely right that the
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numbers in 2012 have exceeded the numbers in 2011. we will continue to do everything we can to process these as quickly as possible. as we get the approvals from washington, we will expedite them. let me also assure you that what i have seen happen at the embassy we will continue to do. when there are particular individuals that are suffering or under a particular threat to and their case is urgent, we go out of our way to make sure these people get immediate service as fast as possible and make sure they are as reassured as possible. we stay in touch with them and do everything we can to help these people. as you rightly point out, they have risked their lives and our behalf and we need to do everything we can to repay that. >> thank you, and finally, this has been raised before but
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syrian refugees -- there are so many of us that even as we introduce legislation to try to move forward in terms of the humanitarian assistance to the syrian people, we have a real concern about refugees and the news in the last couple of days about denying men coming in and allowing women and children to come in. you can understand how difficult it is for the iraqis to handle a lot of new refugees coming in. going back to 2007, when i first visited iraq, i heard stories when we went to jordan about the number of iraqi refugees into jordan. and how big a number that was, tens of thousands.
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it is a difficult problem to manage. in a broadway, can you assess the iraqi policies as it relates to syrian refugees? it may be how many of you know that number. also, what kind of support to they have? what can they expect when they get there? as broadly as you can -- >> the figures i saw earlier this morning and i checked these regularly -- there were a little over 27,000 iraqi refugees in jordan. the majority of those, roughly 23,000, are in the north. these are some kurds who have come a ku into therdish area of iraq.
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27,000 total and 23 are in the north, a little over 4000 are in the south or center of the country. they come across largely at the border crossing between syria and iraq. the border crossing has been closed. only two days ago, it reopened and that was encouraging, something we have been urging the iraqis to do for some time. i think it) middle august. the iraqis have been constructing camps for refugees. a lot of them that come across are still in the iraqi institutions or with friends and families. the u.s. government has contributed heavily tounhcr the efforts in that region.
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i don't know the exact figures but we were close withunhcr and are in touch with them on a daily basis. we work with their efforts to help address the refugee influence into iraq. >> this is kind of a generalization but do you feel positive about the iraqi other support systems, their capacity to handle the inflow? do you think there are significant challenges? >> i think they can handle the inflow if they focus and prioritize on it. we see evidence they have done that at times and continue to do it. we engage regularly with them on this as something of our visitors from the administration and those from the sun have engaged with them on as well. this is an important issue. many iraqis were refugees in
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syria. this is something that many iraqis see as something positive they can do for syrians and we will continue to work with them to make sure they do the right thing and that they have the support they need to do with the right way. we will continue to work with unhcr so it is out there and able to support -- provide support. >> we want to thank you for your testimony today and your presence here and answering our questions but also, in a much more significant way, thank you for your commitment to the country. this is a tough assignment even for someone who has spent a lot of time there as you have. we know you will do well and members of this committee will do everything we can to move your nomination as fast as possible so that we can get you started.
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thank you for your commitment as well as your family and unless there is anything further, we are adjourned. . >> thank you very much, sir. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] >> all this weekend, book-tv has live coverage of the national book festival from the national mall with two days of author presentations and interviews. also, your phone calls starting saturday morning at 10:00 eastern and sunday at noon live on c-span 2. get details at book-tv.org. wednesday, the deputy assistant attorney general in the former head ofatf stepped down following the release of the inspector general's report on operation fast and furious. michael horowitz testifies on
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the findings after investigating the operation that allowed guns to be smuggled across the u.s.- mexico border. the house government and reform committee hearing is like today starting at 9:30 a.m. eastern on cspan 3. >> in just over two weeks, the first of the presidential debates live on c-span, cspan radio, a c-span.org and. watch and in a cage. -- watch and engage. we will join the house of financial-services committee. at noon, eastern, the house is back for work on a bill to block changes to the welfare to work program. coming up in 45 minutes,tom coming up in 45 minutes,tom cole,

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